By Jessica Chan, PLA and Don
Living in a Queen’s Residence is an essential part of the First Year Experience: meeting great friends, enjoying great times, and of course, celebrating accomplishments with those around you who understand.
I personally entered Queen’s University unsure of why on earth I was even here, and when I saw my first year Engineering schedule, I nearly cried: why was I taking so many more courses than my room-mate??? How on earth would I be able to maintain my 80 average to keep my entrance scholarship? What is this strange thing they call “cheeseburger chowder” in Leonard Caf? Why does Stirling LOOK like a circle, but has halls with dead-ends?
I was one of those students who cruised through high school, not caring too much about work habits. I got my A’s and I got into Queen’s. You can imagine my shock when I came to Queen’s and I could no longer apply those poor work habits. After first term, my average had definitely fallen below an 80, and I was not pleased. So I straightened myself up and by the end of my first year, I had a cumulative average higher than 80.
However, it wasn’t until I returned to Residence Life in my fourth year, as a Don, did I realise just how much work first years have to put into school. Not only is everyone trying to fit in with everyone else, they’re also hard at work trying to beat the ol’ stereotype of the Freshman 15: gaining 15lbs due to cafeteria food, and losing 15 marks off your academic average.
Here are some types on how to stay on track for the duration of your time here at Queen’s.
1. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.
You know that Youtube video you’re watching? Or that Facebook friend you’re stalking? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that that’s not exactly number 1 on your list of priorities.
- Use an agenda: Mark down all the important dates you have like midterms, assignments, birthdays you don’t want to miss, etc. Seeing what you have to do will often motivate you to actually do it.
- Make To-Do lists: Usually, a daily list is most effective. What notes do you plan on going over tonight? Is there an assignment that’s due tomorrow that you want to go over one last time before you hand it in? Are you short on your food supply? Do you have no clean underwear left if you don’t do your laundry NOW? Remember to schedule social events; just because you go to school and get good grades, doesn’t mean you can’t have a social life.
Once you have your list, sort them according to their importance: 1 (or A) being urgent and must be done today, 2 (or B) being mildly urgent as something you’d like to get done today, but can be moved if you don’t get around to it, and 3 (or C) being a task that is not urgent at all. For those who love colours (like me!), you can also categorize using highlighters or sticky notes.
2. Divide and conquer.
Yeah, that essay that you have that’s due in 5 weeks? That’s not going to write itself in one night the day before it’s due. Break large assignments into smaller subtasks. For example, start that essay with just a goal that you find out what your thesis is going to be by the end of the first week. This includes having put the effort into thinking about the topic, and asking a TA whether or not you’re on the right track. This also works for smaller assignments, like those pesky weekly math problems. Start them by just dissecting the question and gathering the required equations.
3. Eat, exercise & sleep well.
From experience, I can say that this should be at the top of everyone’s list. When you eat and sleep, you body doesn’t complain, and make you want to sleep through those 8:30s or fall asleep in class. Going to the gym helps keep you alert too! You pay for it, so use it! Waking up and going to bed at the same time everyday makes it easier to go to early classes, and you can get a lot of work done. Three years later, I now sleep infinitely less in my classes.
With so much choice in the cafeteria, it’s hard to say no. A good rule of thumb is to stick to one dish at a time, unless you’re 100% (or more) sure that you can eat more without feeling sick. Try to eat a salad at least once a day. Yes, we like burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, but our bodies like them greens. Instead of those fried potatoes every morning, why not try a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I swear it’s delicious (and it’s got more food groups, too).
4. Make study groups.
Feel like that physics problem is going to eat you alive, and that there’s just no way you can figure out how to solve the problem? Study groups are a great resource that is less intimidating than going to your TA or Prof, for those of you like me when I was deathly afraid of asking them any questions. There’s bound to be someone in the group who understands the question, and even if there isn’t, being in a group lets you bounce ideas off of each other. It’s also a great way to test your own knowledge: when you try to teach someone else the material, it stays in your long-term memory, and you can also find any gaps that you might be missing in your knowledge. Keep in mind that you want to steer clear of groups larger than 4, which usually end up more distracting than useful.
5. Reward yourself.
You deserve it! You work hard, and you get to give yourself a break! After every 50 minutes of studying, give yourself a ten minute break to check what’s going on on Facebook. If you’ve done well on a test, grab a coffee with a drink and have a long, relaxing chat.
There are so many more ways to study, and it mostly depends on you. It’s definitely a self exploration, and you learn, on the way, what works for you and what doesn’t; just because your room mate finds one method effective, doesn’t mean you will. Work at your own pace, and don’t create unreasonable goals. Don’t forget that the Learning Strategies department is always available for any questions and/or problems you may have! www.queensu.ca/learningstrategies
Good luck, and happy studying!